By Kristine Steinberg, CEO of Kismet
If you’re a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, you’ve likely been in this scenario before: business is slow, you’re in a dry spell, you feel stuck or bored, and there’s a sense of staleness around work. You know that something needs to change. And when you’re running the show, you don’t have a business development team to lean on for support. It’s all up to you.
These dry spells are part of the business arc, which cycles through its ebbs and flows and can feel like a roller coaster at times. When a business is formed, it’s in a startup period filled with (ideally) a lot of growth. Eventually, it hits a peak — which means that there’s decline around the corner.
It took me a while to learn this lesson. In the early days of Kismet, I found myself riding the wave of success, only to find myself a few months later with business drying up. I would scramble during those lull periods and pound the payment to generate another cycle of this, having been blindsided by a temporary sense of abundance. The highs and lows were intense. When there’s a lot of business coming in, you can start to feel invincible. But when your full focus goes to doing the work and not building future work, it catches up with you.
So how do you begin to generate business, create opportunities, and bring newness sustainably? Through more than 20 years of running my own coaching practice, I’ve been through many of these lulls, and am here to share with you what I’ve learned.
Step 1: Define Your End Goal
Before you pour revitalized energy into building business, getting more sales, or securing more clients — take a step back and consider what your end goal is. What do you really want? Why do you want to generate new business? How much of it do you need to achieve your dream state? Will you be able to manage the new business you bring in? Do you have the infrastructure set up to be able to serve your clients well?
Personally, I never wanted to run a business that was scaled. Over the years, I have considered bringing in partners or becoming a firm, but I didn’t want to take on that responsibility or give up the one-on-one work with clients that I love. I wanted to provide an intimate, personal coaching experience for individuals. I also wanted to have a balanced life and a sense of independence when it came to my job, so I built the dream business for me. That meant the financial uncertainty of striking out on my own while pregnant and in a new marriage, having just bought a house and moving away from the city — but that’s a story for another time.
Step 2: Identify Tactics That Align with You
Once you become laser-focused on what you want, you can take the steps to make it happen. This stage starts with identifying what you enjoy in the business development process that is connected to the core of your business offering. Make sure that it’s centered around reaching and connecting with your desired customer base — the people who can truly benefit from your services.
This could look like growing your social media presence, attending local events in your field, finding guest speaking engagements, keeping up with your blog, sending out an email newsletter, and on. It looks different for everyone. Whatever feels like the best fit, it will give you a way to relate to your customer base and generate relationships. What lights me up is having organic conversations with people and building genuine connections.
There have been parts of marketing that have always repelled me, but I felt like I should be doing: sending newsletters, “selling” myself, doing formal networking. When I thought about these things, a weight would come into my body. These methods didn’t feel true to myself, and I could never get myself to do them. I’m here to tell you that whatever these areas are for you, this is your permission to not do them.
Don’t get me wrong, generating new business is not going to be easy-breezy. Whenever you’re trying to create something new, it’s going to be effortful and hard work. But I want you to feel like it’s the right kind of hard — something that is aligned with who you are and what you want. You need this incentive and some enjoyment to make it a sustainable practice.
Step 3: Pursue Genuine Connections without Expectations
I have found that when you come from a place of genuine curiosity, care, and wanting to help another person — without expectations — that’s when the best outcomes appear and surprise you. For example, a few months ago, I called a former colleague that I hadn’t talked to in a long time to catch up. During our conversation, we asked each other questions, listened to one another, and were honest about the challenges we each were facing in our respective businesses. We helped brainstorm solutions for the other and left the conversation feeling supported. A few days later, this former colleague emailed me with a contact of his that led to new business for me. I hadn’t called him to ask for new clients. It was just a casual conversation to check in and connect.
When you go into transactional-mode and ask for something, either directly or indirectly, people start to feel pressured. But when you drop expectations and create a pressure-free environment, you create space for real connection and real relationships to form. Reciprocity becomes natural after a good conversation that leaves the other person at the top of mind.
Step 4: Deeply Listen to Current and Prospective Clients
Securing a new client essentially starts with deep listening. It’s the prerequisite for transformational communication, relationship formation, and desired loyalty (meaning someone wants to do business with you not just once, but for the long-term). If you can really hear what someone’s saying beneath the surface-level and you ask curious questions, you can gather information that allows you to respond in a thoughtful way that makes them feel heard, seen, respected, and understood. A relationship like this is not transactional — it’s much deeper. It allows you to tailor your services and fulfill their needs at the foundational level. This is the most powerful business pipeline you can create for current and prospective clients.
Blending the Business Booms and Lulls over Time
There’s good news: the more comfortable you become with this process, the less of a roller coaster running a business will feel like. When you recognize the moments before the peak (and eventual decline) period, you can innovate and get ahead of the lulls. By being proactive, the peaks become less pronounced. As your business savvy grows, the business generation and relationship building phases become less reactionary and defined. Your awareness of the rhythm of your business and reading what it needs to be nurtured becomes heightened and instinctual. You start to balance your time working IN the business and ON the business with ease. Business development will flow more naturally — and contribute to your ongoing evolution.
Kristine Steinberg is the CEO of Kismet. She believes that your life should be deeply fulfilling — not tolerated. Partner with Kismet to dismantle fear, define your path, and lead with courage. Start your transformation today: www.thisiskismet.com.